Deputy fire chief Lawrie Skolrood investigates a fire at an apartment complex on 25th Avenue.

Deputy fire chief Lawrie Skolrood investigates a fire at an apartment complex on 25th Avenue.

Fire investigation continues

Investigators still have some unanswered questions regarding a Vernon apartment complex fire Saturday.

The early morning blaze in the 3500 block of 25th Avenue destroyed all four units and left five families without homes.

All 17 occupants of the four-plex were able to get out of their homes after the fire began at around 4:30 a.m., somewhere outside the complex.

“We do have a pretty good idea where it started but we’re short on answers to other questions,” said Lawrie Skolrood, deputy fire chief.

“The extremely quick spread of the fire is concerning, as is the fact it went from one end (of the complex) to the other. There are high fences between each lot. Some things don’t make a lot of sense right now.”

The entire back of the complex was fully engulfed in flames when firefighters arrived on the scene, and crews battled the blaze throughout the morning.

The building suffered severe damage to both the exterior and interior, and the roof was completely destroyed.

What’s hindering investigators is the fact that there were a number of accelerants surrounding the complex, which may prevent officials from finding an exact cause.

“There might not be answers to this,” said Skolrood.

“The backyard has all kinds of accelerants in it. Gas in the lawn mower, go-karts, barbecues, you name it, it’s back there. We need to find the answer to a few more questions before we can really give any kind of idea of what’s going on there.”

The fire was initially labelled as suspicious and Skolrood said, as of Tuesday, that label hasn’t changed, adding the RCMP are now involved with the investigation.

“There’s conflicting evidence but it’s still very suspicious to us, he said.

The 17 occupants left homeless were helped for 72 hours by the North Okanagan Emergency Support Services, who provided food, lodging and incidentals for the residents.

“We’ve called in the insurance agency to help with the recovery effort for these folks,” said Helen Sinclair with emergency support services.

“Interior Health played a part in helping the people, pet services and victim services were called. We are appreciative of their efforts, as are the victims.”

Sinclair said affordable housing is being sought for the residents.

The Salvation Army has also stepped in to help, as they did in February when fire destroyed a Mission Hill apartment complex, leaving more than 50 people without homes.

After that blaze, the Salvation Army set up a donation centre at the former Cooper’s supermarket on 43rd Avenue.

“What we’re doing this time, instead of setting up another Coopers as this one is not as big, is we’ll be sending the victims to our thrift stores to shop for what they need,” said the Salvation Army’s David MacBain.

“Our request would be that anyone wanting to make donations could go to our 27th Street store (by Subway). If we find ourselves with too much, we’ll likely take them over to the Cooper’s building if we don’t have room.”

MacBain said one of the families impacted by Saturday’s fire has come to the Salvation Army.